Solidarity is Our Duty! Build the Movement to End US Support of the Duterte Regime: ICHRP Convening – Dec. 1, 2018

 

Over the past year, ICHRP-US and its members have conducted engaging and high profile activities throughout the US and in the Philippines.  ICHRP-US has reached a broadening base of people amidst the deteriorating human rights crisis in the Philippines under the Duterte regime. This past year has strengthened the commitment of existing members and garnered the support and commitment of new members to support the Filipino people engaged in fearless struggle against rising fascism and tyranny in the Philippines.

Near the one year anniversary of its 2017 launch, the ICHRP-US Network gathered at the Epworth United Methodist Church in Portland, Oregon on December 1, 2018 to:

  1. Discuss the latest developments in the Philippines under Duterte’s Regime and the U.S. role in aiding the worsening human rights crisis.
  2. Develop a 2019 plan of political action, particularly the campaign to End US Support for the Duterte Regime.
  3. Strengthen the leadership and coordination of regions, working groups and the National Coordinating Committee of ICHRP-US and expand our membership.

There were 34 organizations represented by 54 participants who studied the economic and political situationer of the Philippines to ground themselves in the current conditions and to best inform the campaign development process.  

In addition to discussing the 2019 campaign plan, the group reviewed  ICHRP-US’ gains and challenges over the past year.

Working groups were assembled during breakout sessions to build a stronger media strategy, follow up on the campaign for Justice for Jerome, develop congressional targets, and to build broad movement and pressure, as well as a social media strategy.

Recognition of Martyrs

In honor of the upcoming International Human Rights Day on December 10th, the convening honored a few recent martyrs.

Ben Ramos was 56 years old and was a founding member of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers. Despite limitations, he was the “go-to” pro-bono lawyer of peasants, environmentalists, activists, political prisoners and mass organizations in Negros Occidental.  Earlier this year, he was maliciously and irresponsibly tagged in a public poster by the Philippine police as among the so-called personalities of the underground armed movement.  Ben is the 34th lawyer killed under the 2-year administration of President Duterte. Excluding judges and prosecutors, he is the 24th member of the profession killed and the 8th in the Visayas region. He was passionate, dedicated, articulate and yet also amiable and jolly. He remained fearless in the pursuit of justice, and brought that same determination and character into everything he did.

On the night of October 20, 2018, nine sugarcane workers were massacred while they were resting by more or less 40 armed men in Hacienda Nene in Sagay City, Negros Occidental over land dispute. This is not the first time in our history that farmers were murdered to preserve the interest of landlords. Time and time again violence were used against peasants in response to their pleas for genuine land reform. Such horrific event only further shows the maltreatment of the country’s lifeblood. From unfair policies to actually spilling their blood on the land that they tilled, farmers have long been victims of systematic oppression. The massacre of Sagay 9 reinforces what has long been proven: the lending ears for the plight of farmers are not just deprived, the farmers and their struggles are continuously grinded down by those in power, forever attempting to sweep under the rug their crimes towards them.The blood of farmers will continue to shed until the government pushes for genuine agrarian reform. The people who put food on our table will continue to starve until we stop landlords from stealing what is rightfully theirs. For as long as our people are deprived of their rights, their sufferings will never end.

Elisa was the coordinator for the human rights organization Karapatan in Negros Oriental Province in the Philippines.  She also served as an organizer of urban poor communities in Cebu Province, and worked with Desaparecidos, an organization of families of the disappeared.  Elisa and two of her colleagues were killed on November 28, 2017 by two unidentified men at Barangay San Ramon, Bayawan city in the Negros Oriental province during a mission to investigate alleged land rights abuses in the area.

Had Obello Bay-ao not gone home to Talaingod, Davao del Norte to help with the farming, the Grade 7 student of the Salugpongan Tu Tano Igkanogon-Community Learning Center Inc., a lumad school, might well be alive still, his cousin Rorilyn Mandacawan said.  The 19-year old Manobo was actually one of the lumad who had journeyed from Mindanao to Metro Manila in the Lakbayan 2017and set up camp, including a “bakwit” (evacuee) school set up by the Save our Schools Network, at the University of the Philippines Diliman, Rorilyn said.  “He was actually here with us, when we first came to the bakwit school here in Manila. He went home to help with the farming. How I wish he had gone back here,” said Rorilyn.  As it was, Obello, 19, was shot as he walked home after harvesting his cornfield, allegedly by cousings Ben and Joven Salangani, members of the both the government’s Citizen’s Armed Forces Geographical Unit and the military-backed militia Alamara, the afternoon of September 5.  He made it home despite his wounds but died that evening in the hospital where he was rushed.

Campaign Discussion

The international opposition against the U.S.-backed atrocities of the Duterte administration is reaching new heights. In the past year, grassroots organizations, U.S. Senators, and international governing bodies have condemned the killings of the Duterte Administration. In response, the Duterte Administration has rejected foreign criticism, even threatening to offer foreign activists as targets for the Philippine National Police (PNP) if such scrutiny continues.

Duterte’s administration has shown it will spare no one in its wars against the poor, the Moro (Muslim) and the defenders of human rights. Recently, agents of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and PNP have shot a ten year old lumad child, Aboy Mandaget, murdered Attorney Benjamin Ramos of the National Union of People’s Lawyers, and carried out a brutal massacre in Sagay against nine farmers including women and children.  In addition to these recent atrocities, Duterte’s brutal “war on drugs” targeting the poor and the violent repression of labor unions and worker picket lines continues.  Furthermore, the declaration of martial law in Mindanao has resulted in the displacement of 436,517 people and widespread harassment of women by the Philippine military and police. In the two years of Duterte’s Presidency, the death toll at the hands of Philippine Military and Police has risen to over 23,000 killings. Despite these ruthless acts of violence, the United States has allocated 184.5 million dollars in aid to the Philippine Military and Police.

A big year awaits, as ICHRP-US’ campaign has ambitious goals. ICHRP-US aims to educate the US public broadly on the role and impact the US has on the Philippines human rights situation across various sectors and cases.  Such issues like military aid to the Philippine National Police, the detention and torture of Jerome Aba, the plundering of indigenous land and the exploitation of workers in the Philippines will continue to be highlighted. Over the next year, ICHRP -US will agitate and involve key organizations and people in helping to end U.S. support of the Duterte Regime, including raising congressional awareness and action to help end U.S. aid to the AFP & PNP. ICHRP US expects that the ability of the network to wage and win congressional advocacy campaigns for the Philippines will be strengthened over the next year.

In discussing how to develop this work, a lively debate occurred around the language of “cutting military aid” and “US support of the Duterte Administration.” Some believed pressuring Congress on military aid would not be strong enough because of the other forms of economic and political support the Philippines receives from the U.S.  Some believed using the word administration might mislead people into thinking that once Duterte is no longer in power, the human rights crisis would be resolved. Ultimately, the group reached a unanimous decision to demand to “End US Support of the Duterte Regime,” to demonstrate the systemic aspect of the situation in the Philippines and to build a comprehensive campaign to stop human rights violations that is not only focused on legislative advocacy, though it is a crucial piece of the campaign.

More breakout group sessions discussed ways to connect with environmental and indigenous peoples issues, the trade union movement, and efforts to build a broad anti-war/peace movement. There was also fruitful discussion on lobbying plans and how to mobilize people for next year’s International Solidarity Mission to the Philippines.

Closing

The day of planning ended on a high note with an action in downtown Portland. Putting commitment into action, the delegates raised awareness about the absurd amount of money the US has given the Duterte Regime in the form of US aid to the Philippine Military and Police.  People passing by were shocked to hear that 184.5 million dollars of US taxpayer money was being allocated to a government that committed grave human rights violations.  When asked what they would rather spend the tax money on, they voted for healthcare, education, housing, and the environment.

The gathering and action forecast a challenging but exciting year ahead. The delegates deepened their understanding of the gravity of the human rights situation in the Philippines and the urgent need to ramp up support for the Filipino people’s struggle against the Duterte regime.

Solidarity is our Duty!  End US Support of the Duterte Regime! Uphold human rights in the Philippines!

ICHRP-US Condemns Philippines’ Seat on UN Human Rights Council

Over the weekend on October 13, the Philippines won a three year term on the United Nations Human Rights Council despite widespread outcry against gross human rights violations and over 20,000 extrajudicial killings under the Duterte Administration in under two years.

Duterte’s office defended the new seat as an affirmation of Duterte’s attention to human rights. According to the President’s new spokesperson, Salvador Panelo,  “The president’s campaign against illegal drugs, corruption, and criminality has, in effect, been acknowledged by the international community as essential to the protection of the right to life, liberty and property.” Meanwhile, two claims have been filed against the Duterte Administration with the International Criminal Court (ICC). Additionally, in September, the International People’s Tribunal (IPT) found both the Trump and Duterte Administration guilty of human rights violations in the Philippines.

Along with the ICC, the IPT and the mounting international opposition from rights groups to the human rights violations under President Duterte stand U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden. Senator Merkley has said he “will continue to press Duterte on his human rights record,” and Senator Wyden recently stated he has “very serious concerns about undertaking trade negotiations with a Philippine president who brags about a bloody drug war.”

Their comments were welcomed by groups advocating for human rights in the Philippines and campaigning to ensure U.S. tax dollars do not fund human rights abuses. In 2018 alone, the Trump administration has supported the Duterte administration with at least 184.5 million dollars of aid to the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Merkley and Wyden’s statements come after similar remarks from another U.S. Senator, Patrick Leahy, who in 2016 said, “if President Duterte is serious about improving conditions in the Philippines, he should be focusing on improving services for Filipinos, not casting them aside.”


Pam Tau Lee, Chairperson of ICHRP-US, stated, “The Philippines’ new seat on the United Nations is a horrifying development and farcical recognition of the Duterte Administration as an upholder of human rights. The time is now for heightened scrutiny from international bodies like the ICC and the UN. We call on others in the United States government to join Senators Merkley, Wyden and Leahy in opposing U.S. complicity in the drug war, and we call on the people of the United States to continue resistance to the misuse of tax dollars for war and human rights violations.”

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Founded in December 2017, the U.S. Chapter of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines has 40 member organizations and honorary individual members. We aim to inform the international community about the grave human rights situation in the Philippines today. Beyond information dissemination, it calls on freedom loving peoples, organizations, political parties and governments all over the world to express their concern about the deteriorating human rights situation in the Philippines and to join the Filipino people in their quest for just and lasting peace in the land.

Statement of Solidarity for the International People’s Tribunal on U.S.-Backed Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s Crimes Against the Filipino People

Warm Greetings!

Less than a year ago, over 40 organizations launched ICHRP-US, calling for an end to dictatorship in the Philippines and declaring that “resistance is our right and solidarity is our duty.” Since our launch, we organized the Stop the Killings Speaking Tour: The People’s Caravan for Peace and Justice in the Philippines, and have continued forward in building and expanding our coalition, and in waging a campaign against U.S. military aid to the Duterte dictatorship.

At this moment, ICHRP-US would like to especially raise the recent indictment of former General Palparan, “The Butcher,” as a clear victory on the part of the people’s movement in the Philippines, while also recognizing there are many still suffering to whom justice has not been delivered. Palparan’s arrest comes in a moment in which one of Palparan’s greatest supporters, U.S.-backed former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, is now returning to power as Speaker of the House  at the delight of another U.S.-backed dictator, Rodrigo Duterte. While fascism in the Philippines heightens, the people raise the call for peace and justice and wield the truth to reach victory in the case of Palparan, who is only symbolic of many in the Armed Forces of the Philippines who have not yet been tried.

As people based in the United States, we bring to the International People’s Tribunal (IPT) our outright condemnation of Trump’s support of Duterte’s human rights violations, and rise in opposition to the military aid that goes to the Philippines. As the amount of aid to the Philippines this year alone has now risen to 184.5 million dollars through Operation Pacific Eagle and investment in the Philippine National Police’s anti-narcotics operations, people in the U.S. continue to lack basic social services and housing while our tax dollars go to violence in the Philippines. In light of this, abhorrence seems too light of a word to describe our outrage at the injustice of Trump and Duterte’s practices — only our actions towards justice can speak properly of our determination.

Carolyn Forche, a poet and human rights advocate who covered human rights in El Salvador, once noted to herself: “It is not your right to feel powerless. People better than you have felt more powerless.” In the same vein, ICHRP-US Chairperson Pam Tau Lee expressed: “As people from the United States who find the people’s movement in the Philippines deeply powerful, and as people whose tax dollars fund grave human rights violations in the Philippines, we cannot for a moment feel powerless in our ability to make change. We can only forge ahead and continue to organize at a higher and more courageous level. As our member organizations from the United States watch IPT from afar, we are honored and decisive to deepen and strengthen our commitment to stop the killings in the Philippines, say no to another fascist dictatorship, and strengthen our organizing against U.S. military aid to the Philippines.” Resistance is our right and solidarity is our duty!

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To donate to ICHRP-US’s delegation to IPT, please go here. For more information on this year’s IPT, visit the official page on the ICHRP Global website,

Free the NutriAsia 19! No U.S. Aid to Philippine National Police!

While community and faith leaders gathered for an ecumenical mass on Monday, July 30 amidst the NutriaAsia picket line, Philippine National Police violently dispersed the line and arrested 19 people. The arrestees included Eric Tandoc and Hiyas Saturay, two longtime community organizers from Southern California who were part of a group four journalists covering the NutriAsia strike. Police went so far as to beat and bloody Leticia Espino, an elderly woman and organizer of Kadamay, the largest urban poor alliance in the Philippines.   She is now in the hospital without funds to pay her hospital bill.

We condemn the violent breakup of the ecumenical mass and the disrespect of the people’s sacred ceremony that affirms human dignity and the workers’ struggle, and we demand an end to the repression of activists and faith leaders.

We condemn the continued media blackout and the crackdown on journalists, and we demand the immediate release of the journalists and all those detained.

We condemn the brutal treatment and repression of striking workers and their allies, and we call for the broadest solidarity with NutriAsia workers.

We cannot downplay any role of the U.S. training and support for the Philippine National Police in the violence against faith leaders, the elderly, or striking workers. While the Philippine National Police claimed that protestors and journalists held drugs and guns, the 20,000 killings at the hands of the Duterte regime have shown the planting of evidence as a worn out and obvious framing tactic when the killings are clearly intentional and out of control. As U.S. based peoples, we condemn and we demand an end to all form of US military aid or training to the PNP.

Stop the repression of activists and faith leaders!

Stop the repression of trade unions!

No US aid to Philippine National Police!

Free the NutriAsia 19!

Actions:

 

    1. Mobilize labor groups to sign onto Trade Union Solidarity Letter. Add Trade Union Names directly to google doc.
    2. Donate to the fund set up for NutriAsia workers on behalf of the Asian Pacific American Labor Association.
    3. Boycott Nutriasia brands & products: Mang Tomas, Jufran, Datu Puti, Golden Fiesta, etc.
    4. During the media blackout on the NutriAsia strike, write statements of support and raise awareness on the situation, particularly amongst workers and trade unions.

Share attached memes and banners on social media.

Amidst Repression of Church Workers, Expand the Movement Against Tyranny!

In recent weeks, three United Methodist missionaries — Adam Thomas Shaw, Tawanda Chandiwana, and Miracle Osma — have experienced the terror of the Trump-backed Duterte regime before all safely returned home in the past few days. In only two years, the Duterte regime has wrought over 20,000 killings and shut down the possibilities of peace talks amidst a fifty year civil war in the Philippines; now, the regime is targeting church workers who work in solidarity with the poor.

In February 2018, the three missionaries (Shaw, Chandiwana and Osman) participated in a fact-finding mission — as a part of an ICHRP International Solidarity mission — in rural South Cotabato, Mindanao. The missionaries documented eye-witness accounts of the Lake Sebu massacre in which the Armed Forces of the Philippines killed 8 indigenous farmers. On their way back to the city, Philippine authorities apprehended the three missionaries, along with two others. Government authorities then placed the missionaries on a blacklist for their human rights work, and accused the missionaries of being ISIS members.

Most recently, the Philippine government gave orders for Shaw, Chandiwana and Osma to leave the country because of their “political activities.” Chandiwana was detained for 2 months before being deported, while the Bureau of Immigration withheld documents necessary for Shaw and Osma to leave the country. The United Methodist Church since launched a campaign to #LetThemLeave, and Shaw returned to the United States on July 4, while Osman has just recently been released.  

The three missionaries are among many church workers that have experienced Duterte’s rising fascism. Sister Patricia Fox, a 71-year-old Catholic nun from Australia, also faced threats of deportation due to her work with peasant farmers, but remains in the Philippines after cries of protest from church people across the globe.  In December 2017, assailants killed Roman Catholic priest Father Tito Paez, and since then, three other priests have been killed – Father Mark Anthony Ventura, Father Richard Nilo and Father Rey Urmeneta. On July 3rd, a Mayor and United Methodist, Ferdinand Bote, was gunned down.  

The common thread of these church workers has been their concern for and work with poor and struggling Filipinos. As Adam Shaw recently noted, “I think the church, especially in the Philippines, will always be with the poor, the oppressed, and the marginalized because it is part of our mandate as people of faith to be supporting, to be a platform, and to give space for their voices.”

Reflecting on the grave human rights crisis, Shaw further recounted, “Because I had my prior experience in Mindanao, witnessing all these things happen to people that I work with, having trumped-up charges, being disappeared, being arrested, and some being killed, that maybe I’m a bit more numb or more understanding,” Shaw said. “Yes, I’m on the watch list but it could be much worse. Yes, I’m on the blacklist but I’m still alive and I haven’t been disappeared. It kind of puts it more in a reference.”

Under the Duterte administration, the suffering of only a few individuals — whether Kian De Los Santos, Father Tito Paez, Jo Lapiro, Adam Shaw, or Sister Pat— has been enough to enrage and move thousands across the Philippines and the world to resist Duterte’s dictatorship. But these names are just a few of thousands who have suffered, and Duterte’s long list of human rights violations are not acts merely against church leaders out of spite for Christianity, nor are Duterte’s violations mere personal attacks on individuals, nor, are these attacks even limited to the Filipinos.

Rather, Duterte is waging an all out war against the Filipino people and all those who seek peace and justice in the face of rising fascism, labeling ordinary activists and faith leaders as terrorists. As U.S. military aid continues to support the Duterte administration, Duterte’s all out war is another link in the chain through which U.S. war and intervention holds oppressed people captive across the world.

The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines  joins the United Methodist Church to demand an end to the repression of church workers. Further, if human rights violations against a few church workers has already garnered the ire of thousands — over 18,000 signed the United Methodist petition to let the missionaries go home — then now when there is an all out war against the broad sectors of Filipinos and all those who seek justice in the country and across the world, we call for an even greater expansion of a U.S. mass movement against Duterte’s tyranny and against U.S. military aid and intervention in the Philippines. ####

Take Action:

  • Support the struggle of poor and indigenous communities for self-determination and flourishing: Donate to the Save Our Schools Network as centers of community education and development. Through the United Methodist Church all donations of the Save Our Schools Network are tax deductible and 100% of your donation goes to support the network.
          • To donate online: Go here or go to umcmission.org and search Save Our Schools, Protect Indigenous Life (#3022305).
          • To donate by check, please make your check payable to Advance GCFA and the Advance number on the memo line and mail to: Advance GCFAPO Box 9068 GPO

            New York, NY 10087-9068

          • To donate by phone, please call 1-888-252-6174.
  • Take Legislative Action:  Join congressional advocacy efforts to ensure that U.S. tax dollars are not used to fund the Philippine military and national police.
  • Conduct vigils, write statements, and participate in actions for the people’s State of Nation Address, July 23rd Philippines time. Raise the calls of ICHRP: Stop the Killings! End U.S. military aid to the Philippines! No to Fascist Dictatorship! Resume the Peace Talks!
  • Expand the movement against tyranny — invite churches, organizations, and individuals (whose organization is not yet able to join ICHRP) to join the of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines-United States!

 

U.S. Senate Highlights Extrajudicial Killings in the Philippines

On the heels of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP US) Stop the Killings Speaking Tour: The People’s Caravan for Peace & Justice in the Philippines, the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on State Foreign operations adopted new language that adds to the international condemnation of human rights violations under President Duterte.  The national speaking tour kicked off in Washington D.C. and included advocacy days led by the Ecumenical Advocacy Network on the Philippines (EANP), which featured testimony from Philippine indigenous human rights defenders in 20 congressional visits.  The visits urged members of Congress to restrict aid to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police.

“It is good to see that at least some members of the US Congress are responding to the outcries of Filipinos and their allies in the US about the many serious human rights abuses in the Philippines,” said Paul Bloom, co-coordinator of EANP.

On June 21, the Senate Appropriations Committee adopted language on extra-judicial killings in the funding bill for the US State Department Foreign Operations, requiring the Secretary of State to submit a report within 90 days of enactment “assessing the extent to which the AFP is respecting human rights and the rule of law, particularly regarding involvement in extrajudicial killings, and the investigation and prosecution of military personnel who commit gross human rights violations.” It required that the report “include a description of the steps taken by the AFP to implement policies and reforms to prevent such abuses.”

A week earlier the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee approved their version of the funding bill.  The Committee stated that, “Extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, including those committed in the conduct of the anti-drug campaign, erode confidence in the Government of the Philippines’ commitment to human rights, due process, and the rule of law”.

The funding bills prohibit the PNP from using any US aid funds for its program of extrajudicial killings in the war on drugs.  The bills require that ” — funds be made available to USAID [Agency for International Development] to continue support for the national and community based drug treatment and demand reduction program implemented by the Philippine Department of Health and local entities”.

“This victory is small, but significant,” said Reverend Dr. Mary Susan Gast, Chair of the National Ecumenical-Interfaith Forum for Filipino Concerns in Northern California (NEFFCON NorCal). “Our organizing and persistent communication with legislators have resulted in Senators’ spotlighting extra-judicial killings in the Philippines and calling for accountability and reform as conditions for receiving military funding from the United States.”

The bills allocate funding for fiscal year 2019, which begins October 1, 2018.

The human rights language in these funding bills comes in the wake of reports of an excess of 20,000 killings in President Duterte’s war on drugs; his recent listing of 600 suspected terrorists that includes human rights defenders and even the UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Rights; and, of many recent reports of killings of human rights defenders, indigenous rights leaders, environmental activists, and religious leaders.

“So long as human rights abuses in the Philippines persist, so will our legislative advocacy to ensure that our U.S. tax dollars do not contribute to the suffering of Filipinos,” said Pam Tau Lee, Chair of ICHRP US.  “We will continue to strengthen the global movement for just and lasting peace in the Philippines.”

The network of groups involved in advocacy efforts included EANP, ICHRP, NEFFCON Norcal, the Justice and Witness Ministries of the United Church of Christ, U.S. Filipinos for Good Governance, and StoptheDrugWar.org.

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Portland Filipinos & Advocates Take Torture Case, Philippine Human Rights Situation to the City

Portland, OR– On May 6, 2018 members of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines – Pacific Northwest Chapter (ICHRP-PNW) gathered to give testimony in front of the Portland City Council, calling the City to support a resolution passed by San Francisco Board of Supervisors in the wake of the torture and deportation of Jerome Aba, a Filipino human rights and peace activist. ICHRP-PNW members further explained the human rights situation in the Philippines under the US-Duterte regime, informing the council about the over 20K extrajudicial killings (EJKs) which have occurred under Duterte’s bloody drug war, and finally calling for the safe passage of all migrants and international travelers through Portland ports.

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ICHRP-PNW members highlighted the growing partnership between the U.S. and Duterte regime through the detainment, torture, and interrogation of Jerome Aba, who fell subject to the harassment of US Border and Customs Agents in April. Aba held a ten year visa when he arrived at San Francisco International Airport as a part of the Stop the Killings Speaking Tour, and was set to arrive in Portland in May.

As Tabitha Ponciano, Chairperson of Portland Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines shared, “after returning to the Philippines, Aba recounted the Guantanamo style torture he was subjected to at the hands of the US border and customs agency. He was stripped naked and put in front of an industrial fan in order to make him cold, forced to sign blank documents, and repeatedly left alone in a room with either a loaded gun or an active grenade in order to taunt or intimidate him. Several times during his 28 hours of detainment he was told he had no rights and no right to speak to his lawyer who was waiting outside the entire time. Aba recounts being told on several occasion that if he attempted to run he would be shot and the agents regularly unfastened their guns in order to show they meant what they were saying.”

Despite Aba’s account, the US government has skirted all accountability and insisted that a “technical error” in his visa was the reason behind his 28+ hours of detainment. Nikki De Leon, a speaker from an ICHRP member, the National Alliance of Filipino Concerns, reiterated “There is an unevenness of application to migrants of Customs and Border Protection . . . [migrants] are free to be used for labor power in the United States, but if we are to be peace advocates to point out the influence on the U.S. on the Philippines, we could potentially be tortured.”

ICHRP-PNW member Melissa Munoz connected Aba’s experience with that of Claudia Gomez, a 20-year-old Guatemalan woman killed by US border patrol agents while trying to flee violence in her home country last month. Munoz implored City Council, “Sadly, this is not the first time U.S. agencies have done something like this to fellow migrant residents here in America. The resolution we are asking you to pass today is one that acknowledges the rights, hard work, and respect that all migrants, refugees and international travelers deserve.”

Alma Trinidad, Social Work Professor at Portland State University and at Large Member of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines added: “We want to put a stop to tax dollars to U.S. supported militarization, economic gains, or any form of aid that justifies human rights violations . . . Money speaks volumes. Money put to inhumane treatment customs and border, into advisory groups, into technical support and equipment, including intelligence and surveillance drones, means explicitly investing in violence.”

Twenty-three Portland area faith leaders joined ICHRP-PNW’s call for a City Council resolution condemning human rights abuses in the Philippines and at the US border, “As faith leaders and people seeking peace, we join the City of San Francisco Board of Supervisors in condemning the inhumane treatment of Jerome Aba and call the City of Portland to create a resolution to further condemn the action and to call on our Federal representatives to investigate,” the letter read. “We ask that the City of Portland to uplift Jerome’s message to stop the killings in the Philippines.”

Mayor Ted Wheeler expressed his support for the ICHRP’s cause, saying, “I will put it on the record, in my opinion, President Duterte is not a credible leader that should be supported by the United States.” In a similarly positive statement, Commissioner Chloe Eudaly simply remarked, “Let’s take action,” referring ICHRP-PNW to address the Portland Human Rights Commission to further their advocacy around human rights abuses in the Philippines.

Portland City Council members are not the first major U.S. voices to speak out against the ongoing crimes in the Philippines. Mayor Wheeler and Chloe Eudaly join U.S. Senator Merkley; the Senator wrote a letter of support for ICHRP in May, declaring, “I will continue to work with my colleagues in demanding that the Trump administration join us in condemning instead of rewarding President Duterte’s human rights abuses and violations.”

Taking it’s message to the Portland streets, ICHRP-PNW also posted a billboard add that reads: Stop the Killings: End U.S. Military Aid to the Philippines” on the corner of SW 6th Ave. and SW Broadway.

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ICHRP-PNW, born in December 2017 in Portland, seeks to unite with “any possible” individual and organization for the cause of a just and lasting peace in the Philippines. As human rights violations in the Philippines increases and as the campaign for Justice for Jerome Aba heightens, ICHRP-PNW calls for the broadest possible solidarity for the Filipino People.

You can view the full hearing of the City Hall meeting here, between 6 minutes and 25 minutes.


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